Originally published on Fri April 11, 2014 11:37 am
This week, we asked you to think about the end of your life. If you could pick it, what would you like the last song you ever hear to be? For me, it was easy. Pink Floyd's "Great Gig in the Sky," from Dark Side of the Moon would send me off into the unknown with its perfect mix of sorrow, anguish, majestic awe and celestial wonder.
This week's batch of drum fills comes from a mix of classic rock and pop, and more recent cuts. As always, I was drawn to them simply because I love the songs themselves and was captivated at some point by the percussion. Pro tip: If you don't recognize a fill, try matching the timbre of it — the power behind it, the sound of the recording, etc. — to one of the album covers pictured (or to the period the album was recorded in).
When you can count the director of the Wagner Festival and Tom G. Warrior (the mastermind behind metal behemoths Celtic Frost and Triptykon) among your supporters, you must be doing something right. After all, classical music and metal aren't all that different — both can be bombastic, complex pieces of music high on drama, to put it lightly.
Baggy pants make different music than skinny jeans. Cowboy hats sound different than fedoras. T-shirt-and-jeans bands make a different noise than suit-and-tie bands. You can often look at a band's clothing and have a pretty good idea what it'll sound like.
Originally published on Wed April 2, 2014 12:18 pm
In the world of dance music, March will be remembered first and foremost for the passing of house progenitor Frankie Knuckles on the final day of the month. If you haven't read our remembrance by Barry Walters, please stop what you're doing and check it out. It's hard to put into words what Knuckles meant to dance music, which makes Walters' piece all the more impressive.
This week on All Songs Considered, hosts Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton offer up a brand new song by Jack White. The screaming instrumental track "High Ball Stepper" is the first taste of White's second solo album, Lazaretto, which will be out on June 10.
The Final Four is set. The No. 1 overall seed Florida Gators take on the upstart Connecticut Huskies this Saturday, followed by a matchup between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Kentucky Wildcats.
These programs obviously have great basketball pedigree, but did you know that each of these schools have ties to some of our favorite musicians? Take this quiz to find out how the college scenes in Gainesville, Storrs, Madison and Lexington have shaped your iTunes collection.
Originally published on Sat March 29, 2014 12:10 pm
Every week I hear something amazing, see something inspiring and want to pass it on. These events are sometimes fleeting, sometimes iconic, but they stop me in my tracks. Bob's Rainbows is the place where I'll highlight the very best of my weekly music intake. [Editor's note: Why rainbows? They're the only naturally occurring phenomenon that can make Bob take his headphones off.]
You know what's awesome? Drum fills. A killer bass line is pretty great, too. And guitar solos. And melodies and chord progressions. But a really great drum fill is often the one thing that makes a song truly take off. Think of Phil Collins' "In The Air Tonight" and try not to get that song's classic fill stuck in your head immediately.
Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 3:04 pm
We get a lot of mail at NPR Music, and amid the hundreds of water bottles we were supposed to give away at SXSW is a slew of smart questions about how music fits into our lives — and, this week, thoughts on when a person can rightly be considered too old to attend music festivals.
Don't let the precious name fool you. Mr Little Jeans, a.k.a. Norwegian singer Monica Birkenes, makes propulsive, sometimes epic pop music with gnarled synth lines and alluring textures. In this brand new Mr Little Jeans video, for the moody song "Good Mistake," a trucker hopped up on meds finds himself traversing the haunted backroads of his past.
Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 11:01 am
Few things make us cringe quite like hearing about the untimely death of a musical instrument. A table or an appliance may be swept away by a hurricane, or a set of golf clubs may be mangled by baggage handlers, but they don't hold quite the emotional pull of seeing a crushed guitar or piano. It feels like something living has died.
Neil Young wants you to truly hear the music you listen to. Over the years, the trend in audio has prioritized convenience over quality. Last week at SXSW, I had a conversation with Neil Young about an idea he has to change that trend. In this interview, he talks about Pono, the new audio player he's been helping develop. Just before the interview, I spent time listening to Pono. It's impressive.
Originally published on Wed March 19, 2014 8:26 am
DIY punk bands from around the country are getting a bit more attention these days, largely due to Twitter and Bandcamp, and one of the turning points was Merchandise's 2012 album, Children of Desire. The Tampa-based band was a revelation to a lot of different music lovers; instead of the DIY garage-band stereotype, Children of Desire sounded like The Smiths. (Granted, a rough-hewn version without Morrissey's way with words, but The Smiths nonetheless).
On this week's show, our hosts are joined by Stephen Thompson to discuss their favorite discoveries at SXSW. Everyone had such a swell time at the musical blitzkrieg that they came down with colds. Their respective illnesses cannot dampen the colorful and illuminating memories that they made at SXSW 2014.
Remember when you were little and you relied on friends or music videos to learn the latest dance moves? You couldn't rewind MTV to break down the steps, and you might look a fool for sashaying left instead of right, or whatnot. This is the beauty of the GIF, a motion suspended in looped animation that allows you all the time in the world to get that shimmy down. SXSW was full of crazy dance moves and we had Adam Kissick capture five worth emulating.
Originally published on Tue March 18, 2014 8:26 am
South by Southwest 2014 is a wrap, and it's hard to quite comprehend how much was packed into its five days. Which is why we've put together a handy guide to a small sampling of the massive quantity of music we consumed in Austin last week.
Saturday at SXSW, things go over the edge. Language fails. The mind shimmies free from its moorings. Maybe it's the fatigue. Maybe it's the crowds. You could argue that the constant waves of sound that rattle eardrums over five days in Austin jars something loose inside a person's brain.
Originally published on Sat March 15, 2014 4:03 pm
With hundreds upon hundreds of bands and tens of thousands of music lovers descending upon Austin for just five days, South by Southwest moves pretty fast. So we slowed it down for you. Because they're awfully considerate, NPR Music's video team — led by Mito Habe-Evans — picked out some of the fastest moments at SXSW 2014 and made them go real slow.
Friday was a return to full throttle music consumption for NPR Music's team at SXSW, with few obligations other than seeing as many bands as possible. We saw old favorites and new obsessions, tried to squeeze through the crowds on Austin's streets, watched Lady Gaga navigate questions about her career — and reasons behind the corporate sponsorship of her SXSW show — in this year's keynote address and dragged a bunch of bands into the back yard of a local boutique to perform short sets (keep your eye out for these).
NPR Music's team in Austin woke up on Thursday, like many around the country did, looking for news about the accident that killed two people and injured 23 more at SXSW on Wednesday night. "It was hard to sort of walk out the door today and know that today was going to be another day at SXSW," Bob Boilen said at the end of what he called a long, very emotional day.
Listen to All Songs Considered at SXSW - Wednesday
For most of Wednesday, our team in Austin, Texas, had their eyes on the stage at Stubb's BBQ, where we presented our SXSW showcase featuring sets by Damon Albarn, St. Vincent, Kelis, Eagulls and Perfect Pussy. But near the end of the night, we started hearing news of a terrible accident involving dozens of people outside another venue.
The first day at SXSW is about getting your bearings. Shaking off the jet lag, figuring out what you forgot to pack, remembering how long the lines can be and how the overwhelming crowds can sometimes part for a moment to give you a perfect look at a band you fall in love with on the spot.
As excited as we are about NPR Music's 2014 SXSW showcase with Damon Albarn, St. Vincent, Kelis and others (which you can stream live on March 12 at 7:30 p.m. Central), those artists represent a fraction of the massive party happening in Austin, Texas this week.
Every year Bob Boilen, NPR Music's Stephen Thompson and I prepare for South by Southwest by listening to songs from roughly 1,500 artists. And when you go through that many bands you start to see trends in the names. The two most commonly occurring words are always — always — "black" and "DJ." In addition to those two, this year we noticed that "white" appears an awful lot, too, as does the name John. Michael, Paul and Jesse are also pretty popular. Go figure.